Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tasting Notes: Bubbles! Also, a taste of Asheville adventures

With New Year's Eve coming up, many people wonder about what would be a good, reasonable sparkling wine to open at or prior to midnight of the newish decade. Yes, time geeks have informed me that the new decade doesn’t technically start until 2011, but if I have to remember to change two numbers when I write the date, it counts as a decade change for me. We did have the opportunity to taste several sparkling wines at the most recent JavaMonkey tasting, and then we stumbled upon a champagne bar/used bookstore in Asheville. But I’ll get to that later. Here are the notes from the tasting:

NV François Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs (France): Ugni Blanc and Airen grapes
Citrus nose, but bitter on the end. One taster commented that the bitter almond taste would be a great vehicle for arsenic. With that in mind, don’t bring this wine to one of those murder mystery parties – someone might get carried away! It did play nicely with food.
Rating: Good

NV Zèfiro Prosecco (Veneto, Italy): 100% Prosecco
This one isn’t made like a traditional champagne, but that doesn’t matter because it’s good. A nice representative of the varietal, it has a green apple nose and lots of citrus on the palate.
Rating: Very Good

2005 Marques de Gelida Organic Brut Reserva Cava (Penedès, Spain): Xarello, Paralledo, Macabello, and Chardonnay grapes
Subtle citrus nose with some vanilla and toast. Has a little more flavor to it than the previous wines with minerality balanced by a little toast and some lemon meringue (yes, the bubbles go to my head quickly).
Rating: Good

François Montand Brut Rosé (Southern France): 100% Grenache
Raspberry nose with raspberry and strawberry on the palate. Dry but still fruity. Someone commented that this would be a good one to give to your date because it goes down easily.
Rating: Very Good

2005 Marques de Gelida Brut Rosé Cava Spain): Pinot Noir
Hot pink color, but not much of a nose. Some cherry and anise on the palate.
Rating: Good

The Chook Sparkling Shiraz (McLaren Vale, Australia):
This one is pretty much, as advertised, a shiraz with bubbles with its dark fruit nose, some oak and serious fruit. This one pretty much stumped the table because it was so unlike any sparkling we’d had before, even other sparkling shirazes. This would be a great conversation and/or debate starter at any party.
Rating: Good to Very Good

Okay, now for a brief taste of our Asheville adventures. We spent Sunday afternoon wandering around the downtown area, and were disappointed to find that the wine bar at the Grove Arcade didn’t open until four. We walked outside and saw a lit “Champagne Bar” sign in the window of a used bookstore across the street.

Books and champagne? Brilliant! Of course we had to check out the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, where oenophile Tom Calabrese held court behind the marble-topped bar in the back right of the bookstore. Yes, a champagne bar, as in more than one sparkling wine available by the glass. Try several, and that day they were also pouring a blood orange mimosa, which one patron described as “liquid velvet.” Keep in mind that the velvet in question would be a hot peachy-pink, but hey, whatever works for you. For a moment it felt like we were in one of the many novels that line the shelves of the store: the loquacious wine guy, a professional ballet dancer, his girlfriend the artist, and us, two visitors from out of town who wandered in on a cold day.

It quickly became evident that Tom knows his sparkling, so I asked him what his top three picks for reasonable New Year’s party wine would be. We agreed on two: Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux, which is French and has been around longer than champagne, and Gruet, a champagne maker in New Mexico that puts out fantastic stuff. He also suggested the Luna Argento Prosecco from Italy. I tried it and had to have a second glass to make sure my original impressions were accurate. They were: light citrus nose, mild melon/vanilla finish, and overall elegant balance and bubbles. If I can find it here in Georgia, I’m definitely going to get it.

Oh, and the bookstore was really neat, too, with comfortable seating and a great variety of books in both the upstairs and the downstairs sections. Yes, Asheville is definitely my kind of town. I’ll post more about it later as I gather my notes. And maybe after I find some Prosecco.


Unknown said...

It was a delight to meet you as well. I look forward to future wine adventures on our side of the state line.
What is the tariff on Gruet and St Hilaire in Georgia?
Where you able to find Luna Argenta in your neck of the woods.
Happy new year to you and yours.
Look forward to speaking soon
Thom Calabrese

Dan said...

@Thom, the Gruet and the St. Hilaire (the latter being my fave) both run under $15 in the ATL, at least in the places I tend to shop - although apparently some distributors have seen a significant price jump in the St. Hilaire this year (time to stock up!).